In 2008, Chris and I decided to host a Burning Man theme camp for other nomadic folks like ourselves.
We applied for official placement with Burning Man, and got it. We manage to gather around 25 folks to camp with us, most of them aspiring nomads, though not many others were living full-time on the road yet. In addition to bonding with our campmates, we hosted several social events that brought together other nomadic souls, and connected with a lot of great people.
Overall, it was a highly rewarding experience, and we vowed to host Camp Nomadia again.
Our goal has always been to find and build a tribe of like minds, and by the time we had to submit our application in May to be a registered and placed camp for Burning Man 2009, we had lined up over 35 mostly full-time nomadic folks to be a part of the camp, converging from all over the world. We were astounded by the quality of the camp that was shaping up. Last year felt like the first small step towards building and uniting a nomadic tribe. This year, it was all starting to come together.
But then, just a few weeks ago… we were crushed and thrown into disarray when we learned that Camp Nomadia would be amongst the 130 camps not pre-placed this year due to the shrunken size of Black Rock City.
But out of the ashes rises great things, and the St. Louis based theme camp Pandora’s Lounge & Fix-It Shoppe stepped in and invited us in to share their premium placement right behind Center Camp – a way better location than we would have ever gotten on our own!
This turn of events was the direct result of our stopping by the St. Louis regional Burning Man event, Gateway Burn, earlier in the summer.
Pandora’s didn’t have enough room to take all the Nomadians in however, so we opted to start a Camp Nomadia Annex to avoid turning anyone away. Chris, fellow technomad Ben Willmore and I were able to get Early Access Passes to help build Pandora’s, so we knew we would be able to do a land grab near the main Camp Nomadia right as the gates opened at 12:01 AM Monday morning.
As soon as we had plans in place, we were contacted by the Digital Vagabond, who was not thrilled that the camp he was planning to host the Roads Scholars and Matador Travel at was placed in a loud and remote section of the city. So just a few days before we headed to the playa, we merged the Digital Vagabond tribe in with Camp Nomadia. This brought our total estimated camp population up to 70+ folks. And the majority of them are actually full time travelers and travel enthusiasts. We could not have been more thrilled – or overwhelmed!
But suddenly, our little minimal-organizing-and-infrastructure-needed camp now involved herding 70 nomadic burners (most of whom have never met) to two separate locations on the playa, and making sure we were perceived as excellent guests of Pandora’s. Egads!
It was a lot of work, but so worth it.
Camp Nomadia ended up being equally split between two nearby locations. We had nomadic folks who travel via RV, motorcycle, tour bus and hitchhiking. We had folks who had been traveling for years, those just embarking on their journey and those currently in transition to a more mobile lifestyle. We had folks from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Britain, Mexico, Canada and beyond. We had global travelers and domestic travelers. We had folks actively writing about their travels, and those who were intentionally living as off the radar as they could. We had folks who were working as they travel, as well as those who are taking a sabbatical or newly retired.
Merging with Pandora’s also gave us an awesome lounge in which to host Nomadic Happy Hours, to invite nomads from across the playa to join us. We even decided to try hosting a ‘Technomadic Lifestyle Workshop’.
I honestly wasn’t expecting more than perhaps a dozen folks sitting around a couch talking about technomadism and swapping travel tips. Instead, 15 minutes before the start of the workshop, the lounge was completely full. By the time we started the workshop, we were literally overflowing into the streets. Our best estimate is that there were 80-100 folks present, all eager to learn more about how to do what we do.
Merging in with the Digital Vagabond Tribe also meant that we were able to host the Roads Scholars Graduation Party, the culmination of
the road trips of four young folks who had spent the summer on the road with sponsorship from Matador Travels. It was an honor to meet three of the scholars – JoAnna Haugen, Kyle Smith and Allana and attend their graduation ceremony conducted by the honorary dean of Vagabond U, Ed Buryn, the author of the 1970’s travel classic Vagabonding in America.
The week spent hosting Camp Nomadia was full of incredible moments of connection and inspiration. One moment stands out in my mind right now – on the day before we left the playa, an attendee biked up to thank us for the workshop. He told us that he had been so inspired this week that he was planning to head home, sell all of his stuff, and hit the road full time.
Yeah, Camp Nomadia rocked.